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Mikael Kingsbury named Canada Athlete of the Year

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Mikael Kingsbury, the Olympic moguls champion, is the first freestyle skier to win the Lou Marsh Trophy, Canada’s athlete of the year award.

Kingsbury, 26, dominated in PyeongChang, receiving the highest scores for time, turns and air moves in the final to win by 4.06 points. It marked the first instance in moguls history that a man topped the final field in all three categories that make up the total score, albeit the format moved from a 20-skier final to a six-skier final in 2014.

Kingsbury also finished first or second in all eight World Cup moguls or dual moguls events so far in 2018. He’s up to 50 World Cup victories, breaking the moguls record shared by U.S. Olympic champions Donna Weinbrecht and Hannah Kearney.

The other reported Lou Marsh finalists were:

Brooke Henderson, Golf: Second in the LPGA Tour’s Race to the CME Globe
Kaitlyn Lawes, Curling: Olympic mixed doubles, world women’s titles
Connor McDavid, Hockey: 2017-18 NHL points leader, most outstanding player
Kaetlyn Osmond, Figure Skating: Olympic bronze medalist, world champion

The Lou Marsh Trophy went to an Olympian 15 times in the last 20 years, most recently Olympic 100m freestyle swimming champion Penny Oleksiak in 2016. Winners in Winter Olympic years included speed skaters Catriona LeMay Doan (2002) and Cindy Klassen (2006) and bobsledder Kaillie Humphries (2014), all gold medalists those years.

That history worked against Henderson and McDavid, who didn’t have an Olympics in 2018. Osmond had arguably the best year for an individual Canadian figure skater with her three major medals, but Russians Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva beat her in PyeongChang.

Lawes led all women in shooting percentage in the first Olympic mixed-doubles event and led her team (skipped by Sochi Olympic champ skip Jennifer Jones) in shooting in the gold-medal game of the world championship a month later.

Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were ineligible for the individual award together, according to Canadian media.

The Lou Marsh Trophy, named after the former Toronto Star sports editor and columnist, is annually voted on by Canadian sports journalists.

MORE: U.S. figure skating rankings going into nationals

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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